By Diego Loera
Diversity Reporter

UC Santa Cruz thrives on diversity. But according to College Republicans at UCSC, the university is failing to promote the specific diversity of political thought.

On May 21, the College Republicans hosted a screening of the documentary “Indoctrinate-U” which showed examples of academic freedom being threatened by liberal political thought overwhelming university classrooms and school policies nationwide. Alongside the threat to academic freedom, the documentary revealed problems that arose when universities sought to achieve cultural and political tolerance.

The College Republicans say they are the target of hasty remarks, antagonism, rejection and ridicule from popular media, students and faculty on campus because of their affiliation with conservatism, the Republican Party and the Bush administration.

Kaitlyn Shimmin, College Republican state secretary and immediate past chair, believes some conservative students are hesitant to manifest their opinions during class when professors propagate derogatory opinions about the Bush administration or the Republican Party.

“Personally, I have had a lot of teachers who would assume that the entire class was liberal,” Shimmin said. “[They] would say things like ‘We all know that the war in Iraq is over oil’ or ‘We all wish Bush wasn’t president,’” Shimmin wrote in an e-mail to City on a Hill Press (CHP).

Shimmin added that to avoid conflict with the professors, some conservative students choose to remain silent during class.

“Some [conservative students] are intimidated to come out with different conclusions than the professors,” she said. “So it’s just easier to write a paper [the professors] want.”

Daniel Wirls, professor of politics at UCSC, agrees with Shimmin’s claim, but only to an extent.

“I don’t think there is a doubt that the faculty is more liberal than the general population,” Wirls said. “But I think biased perception is difficult to avoid when talking about political subjects.”

Megan Thomas, assistant professor of politics at UCSC, also believes that it might be difficult for a professor to avoid stating an opinion if the subject is within the professor’s area of expertise.

“If your expertise speaks to a particular issue or policy, then it would be weird for you not to share your analysis,” Thomas said. “If he or she is an expert, [a professor’s opinions] may be more valuable than those of someone who doesn’t have the same depth of knowledge.”

Alongside problems conservative students have in classrooms, the College Republicans also point out problems that surface when universities attempt to be politically correct toward specific groups and their events.

The College Republicans at UCSC have dealt with the school’s aim for political correctness, and so far they have been disappointed with the result.

Hao Li, a member of the group and a representative in the Student Union Assembly (SUA), and his fellow College Republicans pushed for conservative speaker David Horowitz to come to UCSC. Even though SUA is not supposed to display favoritism for any event, Li noticed a stigma within the SUA against Horowitz because of his ideas.

“Funding for [Horowitz] to lecture at UC Santa Cruz [was] stalled in the Student Union Assembly,” Li wrote in an e-mail to CHP. “Many in the SUA [refused] to fund Horowitz because they do not agree with his views, yet our school regulations say that funding of programs must be ‘content-neutral.’ I’ve always given the ‘yes’ to funding programs to excel diversity on campus, and many funding requests involve groups that I don’t necessarily agree with either. But I still fund them, because I believe all ideas need to be heard on this campus, not just the ones I agree with.”

Shimmin said that a College Republican adviser recommended putting pro-conservative campus events on hold in an effort to avoid conflict with large crowds of protesters. She feels that the conservative voice is being restrained by this approach.

“A conservative event was being protested and the [College Republican adviser at SOAR] urged us to stop our event because there were more [protesters] than us,” Shimmin said. “I don’t mind when people protest. That is their right. But when it interferes with an event to the point that it needs to be shut down, they are silencing the minority.”

“Indoctrinate-U” was shown with relatively low attendance. The event was advertised through fliers, but attendance barely filled half the room. However, those who attended were inspired to discuss UCSC’s current political atmosphere and whether they felt their voices as conservative students were allowed to be heard or not.

For conservative students to feel like they do have a voice, Thomas believes conservatives could use this public university, and its liberal outlook, to their advantage. In cases where they feel challenged by the class or professor, Thomas encourages conservatives to seriously consider the argument being made and engage with it analytically.

“Self-identifying conservatives might get a better education,” Thomas said, “because they will have practice defending their position against strong arguments.”